The R&A and the USGA have announced the first update to the World Handicap System (WHS) as part of an ongoing review of the Rules of Handicapping and Course Rating System.
The revisions, designed to make the system more accurate, consistent and fair, will go into effect from 1 January 2024.
Many countries have seen significant increases in the number of scores being submitted for handicapping purposes since the WHS was introduced, reflecting golf’s growing participation numbers in Europe and worldwide.
More than 100 million scores have been posted globally each year, unifying millions of golfers through a standard measure of playing ability.
The 2024 update leverages the performance data gathered from around the world, in addition to feedback received from many of the 125 countries now using the system.
Significant updates to the WHS include:
- Inclusion of Shorter-Length Golf Courses Within the Course Rating System: The overall length requirements for Course Rating in the WHS will be significantly reduced. A set of tees on an 18-hole course may be as short as 1,370 metres [1,500 yards] to be eligible for a Course Rating and Slope Rating, and a set of tees on a 9-hole course may be as short as 685 metres [750 yards]. This change is intended to expand the WHS to thousands of shorter length courses, including par-3 courses, and enable more golfers to obtain and use a Handicap Index.
- Use of an Expected Score for a Hole Not Played: Improvements have been made to the method used to handle holes not played, which will now be based on a player’s expected score rather than a score of net par. This new method will produce a Score Differential that more accurately reflects a player’s ability. As golfers across the world are playing more 9-hole rounds, an expected score can be used to convert a 9-hole round into an 18-hole Score Differential.
- Playing Conditions Calculation Adjustments Made More Frequent: The Playing Conditions Calculation (PCC) has been modified to increase the likelihood of an adjustment for abnormal playing conditions. National associations were given discretion, beginning in July 2022, to introduce this revision within their computation platforms, which will be complete by 1 April 2024.
- Enhanced Guidance on Conducting a Handicap Review: The role of the Handicap Committee is vital to the success of the WHS and the Rules recommend that a Handicap Review is conducted regularly, or at least once a year to ensure a Handicap Index® remains reflective of a player’s ability. New reporting tools have been developed that national associations can incorporate into their handicapping software to assist Committees in conducting the review process effectively and consistently.
"The changes are an important and necessary step to improve the WHS and in some cases to finalize what was not done four years ago at the launch of the system" said chairman of the EGA Handicapping & Course Rating Committee, Richard Cau.
"The most important change is the reduction of the minimum length to rate a course. This will have an enormous impact on the golfing sector, helping major countries to grow the game and emerging countries to develop it."
"The new expected score concept is a much more accurate and easy way to convert a nine-hole round to an 18-hole Score Differential or to complete an 18-hole round for handicapping purposes when some holes are not played."
Since its inception, the WHS has embraced the many ways golf is played around the world by giving national associations scope to apply regional discretionary items, with the objective for greater alignment over time. For this reason, the governing bodies expect countries to continue to shift the way they calculate Course Handicaps so that they are relative to par, making a golfer’s target score to “play to handicap” more intuitive.
Golfers are encouraged to visit their national association’s website to learn more about the discretionary items that apply to their region. Contact details for European national associations can be found here: https://www.ega-golf.ch/federations.
The R&A and the USGA have also recently launched a new WHS Software Accreditation and Interoperability Programme to help ensure that there is consistency and accuracy in the calculation of handicaps worldwide, and to assist with the retrieval of a Handicap Index and the return of away scores from country to country.
The R&A and the USGA jointly launched and govern the WHS to provide a modern and responsive system, that gives an accurate reflection of a player’s demonstrated ability. It is calculated by incorporating the Rules of Handicapping and the Course Rating System and is administered by a range of handicapping bodies and national associations around the world.
The more flexible and accessible nature of the system has led to the introduction of successful initiatives from a number of national associations aimed at making it easier to obtain a Handicap Index and be part of the WHS.
Mirroring the review processes of other areas of governance in golf, including the Rules of Golf and the Rules of Amateur Status, reviews of the WHS will continue to be conducted at regular intervals, taking into consideration performance data and feedback to help identify areas for improvement.
To learn more about the World Handicap System please visit www.WHS.com.